A .30-06 (thirty-aught-six) is a popular cartridge for hunting rifles. Now, imagine that same bullet coming at you. Yeah, you’re about to have a bad day. But what if there was a type of armor, lighter than metal plating that could protect you.
Scientists are working on it, and they have their eyes set on composite metal foams. Take a look at the video below. Scientists fired a 7.62 x 63 millimeter (metric for .30-06) M2 armor piercing projectile at a composite metal foam.
You know police precincts around the nation perk up when they see the footage.
“We could stop the bullet at a total thickness of less than an inch, while the indentation on the back was less than 8 millimeters,” says Afsaneh Rabiei. “To put that in context, the NIJ (National Institute of Justice) standard allows up to 44 millimeters indentation in the back of an armor.”
Rabiei is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State. As her title indicates, the uses for composite metal foams extend beyond protection from gunfire.
Aerospace is an area that must find a perfect balance between protection and weight. Composite metal foams could be the answer. Shipping nuclear waste is another potential application. Last year, Rabiei helped show the same material is great at blocking X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation.
“This work means there’s an opportunity to use composite metal foam to develop safer systems for transporting nuclear waste, more efficient designs for spacecraft and nuclear structures, and new shielding for use in CT scanners,” Rabiei said at the time.
Other research showed promise for the material as a heat resistant material.
“Our findings suggest that CMF can offer extremely good thermal insulation, superior thermal stability, and excellent flame retardant performances as compared to commercially available materials such as stainless steel,” Rabiei said last month.
Rabiei and other researchers continue to learn more about composite metal foams and their capabilities. One day, we may see body armor that is much lighter, while offering much more protection. The aerospace applications are even more intriguing.